from the GEORGICS - Book IV, ll.228-250
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro)tr. L.P.Wilkinson
His quidam signis atque haec exempla secuti
esse apibus partem divinae mentis et haustus
aetherios dixere; deum namque ire per omnes
terrasque tractusque maris caelumque profundum.
Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum,
quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas;
scilicet huc reddi deinde ac resoluta referri
omnia nec morti esse locum, sed viva volare
sideris in numerum atque alto succedere caelo.
Siquando sedem angustam servataque mella
thesauris relines, prius haustu sparsus aquarum
ora fove fumosque manu praetende sequaces.
Bis gravidos cogunt fetus, duo tempora messis,
Taygete simul os terris ostendit honestum
Pleas et Oceani spretos pede reppulit amnes,
aut eadem sidus fugiens ubi Piscis aquosi
tristior hibernas caelo descendit in undas.
Illis ira modum supra est, laesaeque venenum
morsibus inspirant et spicula caeca relinquunt
adfixae venis animasque in vulnere ponunt.
Sin duram metues hiemem parcesque futuro
contunsosque animos et res miserabere fractas,
at suffire thymo cerasque recidere inanes
quis dubitet? nam saepe favos ignotus adedit
stellio et lucifugis congesta cubilia blattis
immunisque sedens aliena ad pabula fucus
aut asper crabro imparibus se immiscuit armis,
aut dirum tiniae genus, aut invisa Minervae
laxos in foribus suspendit aranea casses.
Quo magis exhaustae fuerint, hoc acrius omnes
incumbent generis lapsi sarcire ruinas
complebuntque foros et floribus horrea texent.
Whenever you open up the stately home
Unsealing the honey stored in its treasure-chambers,
First draw a little water to douche your face,
Then hold before you a torch with searching smoke.
(Twice in the year men gather the honey harvest:
First when Taÿgetê the Pleiad shows
Her comely face to the world and with her foot
Has spurned the streams of Ocean, and again
When the same star, fleeing the rainy Sign
Of the fish, more sadly hastens down the sky
Into the wintry waves.) The rage of the bees
Is boundless: hurt, they breathe into their stings
Poison, and fasten on your veins to leave
Their secret javelins, and in that wound
Lay down their lives. But if you fear the harshness
Of winter, anxious to protect their future,
Pitying their bruised spirits and shattered fortunes,
Still, no one will forbear to fumigate
The hive with thyme and cut out empty cells;
For often an undiscovered newt has nibbled
The comb, and skulking woodlice that infect
The dormitories and the squatting drone
That brings no contribution to the mess;
Or the savage hornet with superior weapons
Has fought his way in, or the dreaded tribe
Of woodworms; or Minerva's hate, the spider,
Has draped the doors with her sagging hunting-nets.
The more the detriment, the more will prove
The keenness of each bee to set to work
And mend the wreckage of the ruined home,
Fill up the rows and fashion flowery storerooms.
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Trans. Copyright © L.P.Wilkinson 1982 - publ. Penguin Classics


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